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An Iraqi army unit has assumed responsibility for an area south of Mosul formerly under the purview of the U.S. Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The Iraqi 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Army Division took over the mission in a ceremony Saturday. The unit’s main task is providing security in an area that stretches between Qayyrah and the Mosul-Baghdad highway and encompasses about 58 square miles, officials said.

The battalion has its roots as an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps company, and now has expanded to an 800-member battalion. The unit has lost 13 of its soldiers in battles with insurgents and has participated in “more than two dozen major, battalion-level missions,” according to a U.S. military news release.

The Iraqi unit is commanded by Brig. Gen. Ali Mullah.

The handover represents the latest effort of U.S. troops to give more responsibility to Iraqi forces; it is the cornerstone of a U.S. exit strategy from the country, mired in the third year of an unrelenting insurgency. Included in the strategy is the training and fielding of Iraqi police forces.

Officials from Multi-National Division Central-South and the Iraqi police recently held two conferences to figure out training and support for police units in Diwaniyah and Kut provinces.

“Our goal is to build credible Iraqi Police structures, capable of independent law enforcement operations and ready to provide a secure environment in provinces,” Maj. Gen. Piotr Czerwinski, the Polish commander of MNDCS, said in a news release.


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